“Because that’s where the money is,” Slick Willie Sutton replied when asked why he robbed banks. Sutton, once one of America’s most notorious criminals, merely followed the logical pattern practiced by every predator since the beginning of time. To game fish searching for a tasty meal, shorelines become the treasury of our marine habitat. Schools of smaller critters seek sanctuary in the shallower water and the structure a shoreline offers. Bigger fish prowl and probe shorelines because they know a vital food source takes refuge there.
When fishing a shoreline, start by analyzing it in general and each seemingly productive spot specifically. Predators tend to cruise along the shoreline, investigating any type of structure and focusing on specific features. Baitfish often concentrates along edges and transitional zones where the bottom changes from rock to sand, grass to mud, and other types of terrain. Drop offs and deeper holes provide ambush places where a predator can lie in wait for a hapless victim that wanders over the edge.
Study the visual shoreline above the water’s edge, because the same structure will usually continue beneath the surface. Sharply dropping points on land should follow the same pattern under water. Fallen trees offer a haven. Sheer cliffs indicate deep water below, while gentle beaches ease slowly into the sea. On a flooding tide, husky predators may cruise back and forth or they might hold in deeper water off the edge. Check out potholes on either incoming or outgoing tide. If the wind is blowing, try fishing the windward shore. The zephyrs drive smaller fish there and tend to hold them in that oxygen-rich water.
Learn to use tides and currents to your advantage. You already know that fish face into the flow of water. If the big guys are holding in one place, look for them to use structure as a shield from the flow of water. Beaches generally produce better on incoming water. At the bottom of the tide, look for action at the mouths of creeks and feeder streams where the lack of water forces prey over the edge.
Points, pockets, and identifiable features form the heart of any shoreline. The key lies in presenting a bait or lure so that it sweeps past a potential ambush spot with the current. Structure such as trees, rocks, drop offs, holes, creek mouths, converging currents and so forth are always worth a cast or two. Make sure each presentation lands beyond where you expect the fish to be, so you can work it effectively. If you land right on the structure, you will probably scare your quarry.
Shoreline fishing is very visual and fuels the adrenalin pump, particularly when the water is clear and you can see your target. Make each cast with precision. It should be as close to shore or as far back under overhanging limbs as possible. A foot or two can make a difference. You also have the option of casting parallel to the shoreline and, at times, this can be very effective.
As you learn to read the water, master the tides, and present your offering in a natural and realistic manner, you could find yourself brawling with some pretty effective fish. That’s what shoreline fishing is all about. Try it!